Xi'an Famous Foods is a local legend in New York City. It was the first restaurant to bring the little-known cuisine of Xi’an (of Shaanxi Province in China) to the United States, with its signature Liang Pi “Cold-Skin Noodles,” “burgers” with house-made flatbread stuffed with stewed pork or spicy cumin lamb, and various biang biang hand-ripped noodle dishes. Xi'an has since grown, with multiple locations throughout New York City, and remains independently owned by Jason Wang, son of David, the original chef and proprietor. For their first cookbook, published by Abrams Books, Sharp Grotesk is used most notably as the titling font on the book cover but also throughout the book for all the headlines, lending its unique combination of singular and adaptive qualities to a restaurant that has proven to possess those same traits.
For a certain generation of New Yorker, visiting the original Xi’an Famous Foods (西安名吃) was a secret that you became privy to by word-of-mouth, likely during dinner with pasta-obsessed friends, or over drinks with the line cook who knew all the hole-in-the-wall spots. The secret became a pilgrimage for the uninitiated. Before Uber and Citibikes, if you wanted to get to Queens in the 2000s and early 2010s, you had to take the train there. Xi'an Famous Foods began in a 200-square-foot basement stall in the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing. The foodcourt there was the arguable epicenter of the de-facto Chinatown of New York City. While it wasn't always packed, no matter when you went, there was always someone eating at Xi'an, and over the years, it became obvious that the good word had spread as the demographic of the patronage clearly changed.
Before "authenticity" became the default signifier of "good" and an obsessive marketing aspiration, it meant something simple. For many, visiting Xi'an Famous Foods was an exotic experience, but the novelty was ideally eclipsed by the immediate, simple pleasure of good sauce and good noodles. Flavor and texture are two salient loci of taste -- and this is true for food, and also for type design. Sharp Grotesk's pleasures are simple and evergreen, but simple is always the most difficult thing to do. As far as brand associations go, we're in good company, and we're excited that a branch of Xi'an recently opened near our studio.